Although I’m excited about the potential of the Little Cree Books project, and grateful for the volunteers who have contributed hours and hours of their skills to create these free, levelled reading resources for early Cree readers, I understand that learners still struggle with fluency and even carrying on a basic conversation in Cree.
In 2013, I was listening to a spreecast on indigenous languages, and I heard Khelsilem describe how he had used a system called Where Are Your Keys? (WAYK) to learn to converse in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, one of his heritage languages.
I spent the next year trying to find funding to bring WAYK experts to Edmonton to work with Cree learners, but had difficulty securing a non-profit fiscal agent that could manage any finances we were able to obtain. In April 2014, I drove down to Oregon to spend 10 days with WAYK’s creator, and after just 15 hours of working with WAYK, I could carry on a (basic) 35-minute conversation in the language we had been working on. This was proof enough to me that this method worked.
In August 2014, I headed back to the west coast for 10 days to see WAYK in action in the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Now that I’m back in Edmonton, a group of interested and committed learners and I are meeting together to fumble our way through WAYK for Cree. Little Cree Books will continue to exist, but WAYK: Cree has now been added as a complementary initiative. If you’re interested in joining us, either now or once we’ve gotten our footing a little better, please contact me for information on where and when we’re meeting! The Conversational Cree Group (CCG) that has been running in Edmonton for the past 5 or so years has been a major inspiration to this project, and we don’t see WAYK: Cree and the CCG as competition, but rather as additional opportunities to reach the learning needs of as many Cree learners as possible! In fact, several of our participants participate in both groups!